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Trending among Chinese consumers: Chillax!
Connecting with the psychology of Chinese consumers amidst slow economic recovery
Recently, "松弛感", which literally translates to "a state of looseness and relaxation", has been trending among Chinese consumers. (A better slang term translation for this would be "Chillax", which means to have a chill and relaxed vibe). On Xiaohongshu, the mentions of the keyword “松弛感“ or “Chillax” have been skyrocketing since the summer of 2022. In today’s post, we delve into this phenomenon and break down exactly what Chinese consumers are talking about when they pursue the feeling of looseness!
“躺平” or “Lie flat”: ways of enjoying oneself amidst an economic downturn
Amidst a slow recovering economy, many Chinese consumers have found themselves embracing the mindset of "chillax". In the face of these financial hardships, a considerable number of people have begun recognizing the reality of the economic climate, adopting a more relaxed perspective towards it. This shift has led to the exploration of less expensive, simpler ways to find joy and fulfillment. Instead of striving for expensive luxuries, the "chillax" trend encourages people to take pleasure in the simpler aspects of life—whether that's a walk in the park, a home-cooked meal, or a shared moment with loved ones.
An article describing the recent life and mental state of Chinese middle-class consumers went viral on WeChat, giving us a glimpse into this scene. Here is our redacted translation to help understand the psychology behind Chinese consumers:
In the past, the middle class was adept at using consumption to showcase their status, displaying their lifestyle on social media and inadvertently flaunting luxury brand logos, emphasizing that "you are the symbol of your consumption."
Nowadays, buying a car and a house has become a heavy burden, and the middle class has started exploring free spiritual enjoyment, which is called "actively accepting 'relaxation education'." Being able to waste time casually is a way to relax, and lying on the lawn for a day is also a way to train in relaxation. The essence of relaxation education is mainly gestural. Even if you don't spend money, as long as your posture is calm enough, it is another form of luxury.
Chaoyang Park, Beijing, became a public beach overnight.
Perhaps it's because people have seen through the patterns of wealth fluctuations, or maybe they are tired of dealing with unexpected events. People have started pursuing a universal sense of relaxation.
The sense of relaxation was originally internalized rather than showcased, but in Chaoyang Park, it's like entering a hall of "relaxation exhibition". People line up eagerly to participate and willingly embrace "relaxation education", collectively creating this atmosphere.
In the past, the lawn in Chaoyang Park was merely for decoration, meticulously trimmed but not meant for stepping on. At some point this year, I don't know exactly when the park's lawn became available for picnics.
Consequently, the phenomenon of "group relaxation education" first manifested in the scarcity of lawn space, especially near the riverside. If you arrive late, you can only queue up and wait.
"The two-meter-high metal panels around the park have been removed, and the park immediately looks like the central park [in New York City]" said Zhao Zhao, a local resident.
In the past, Chaoyang Park was just a running track for Zhao Zhao. Now, it has become her outdoor sanctuary for soothing her mind. In order to chill out, she dedicates her weekends to Chaoyang Park.
"Chaoyang Park has become my outdoor soul massage room," she said. To relax, she brings a picnic mat and can lie down anywhere as long as it doesn't hinder others from walking. The surrounding noise becomes white noise, and she can spend half a day intimately connecting with nature.
In Chaoyang Park, such scenes of relaxation can be seen everywhere.
People who have lost their jobs are coming to Chaoyang Park to receive a "relaxation education."
If we trace it back, those who suddenly lost their income might be the first batch of "relaxation alpha users" in Chaoyang Park this year.
Wangzai, who quit his job last month, has recently developed a liking for strolling in Chaoyang Park during the afternoons over the past few weeks. Each time he goes, he brings only a book, and at most, a laptop (for writing resumes). He lies down in the shade, playing with his phone. "Not for anything else, I just don't want to be disturbed and want to empty my mind."
Wangzai used to work as an auditor in a large company. Due to rating reasons, his year-end bonus was canceled. In a fit of anger, he chose to resign and resist this "unfair" outcome.
When there are many people receiving “relaxation education”, Chaoyang Park also becomes fashionable. If we look closely, it has become the most exquisite pattern in Beijing. The key philosophy of each person's "relaxed lying down" is "whether you have money or not, live your life well; have a good mindset."
In the past, when the middle class had some free time on weekends, they were always enthusiastic about self-improvement. Resting felt like a sin. Now, they have come to understand that "at present, there is nothing that must be done. Lying on the lawn is a serious matter."
"Chillax" is a new fashion trend
The concept of "Chillax" has evolved beyond a coping mechanism for consumers during economic downturns and has transformed into a new fashion trend. Analysis of data from Xiaohongshu, a leading lifestyle social media platform in China, reveals that nearly 72% of the posts discussing "Chillax" are centered around makeup and fashion. This insight demonstrates how the pursuit of relaxation and a carefree attitude has intertwined with the realm of personal style and self-expression.
On Xiaohongshu, consumers are discussing the "Chillax" style, which is all about a laid-back and effortless vibe. It's about embracing comfortable clothing such as oversized sweaters, loose jeans, and flowy dresses that prioritize comfort without compromising on style. The color palette tends to be soothing and muted, creating a calm and relaxed atmosphere. When it comes to makeup, the "Chillax" style is all about a natural and minimal look. It's about keeping things simple and letting your natural beauty shine through in a relaxed and easygoing way.
The trending "chillax" vibe also presents a significant commercial opportunity. Data from BigOne lab reveals a surge in online sales of products associated with the "chillax" trend on major e-commerce platforms in China, including Tmall, JD, and Douyin. Since October of last year, the mention of "chillax" in product descriptions has resonated with consumers, driving increased demand for items that embody the relaxed and effortless lifestyle.
The concept of "松弛感" (chillax) has resonated particularly well with consumers seeking affordable options, as evidenced by the brand landscape. According to online sales data from BigOne Lab, local brands offering mid-to-lower priced products have led the wave of the "Chillax" vibe. All of the top-selling brands that use "Chillax" as a product keyword on online channels are local brands, with most of them offering affordable fashion clothing.
One such example is the local fashion brand "金蘑菇菇" (Jin Mogu Gu), which has adopted "chillax" as a prominent product keyword, specifically focusing on oversized clothing in the style of Instagram influencers. The brand does not necessarily offer the most durable and high-quality clothes, but the use of the "Chillax" vibe as the key product feature has significantly contributed to the brand's commercial success in its target customer group.
Connecting with the psychology of consumers amidst slow economic recovery
In China, fashion trends have often been influenced by foreign brands and individuals with exposure to foreign cultures. However, in the case of the "Chillax" vibe, it appears that local brands were among the first to actively embrace and incorporate this concept into their product marketing strategies. Interestingly, the appeal of the "Chillax" trend extends beyond a specific consumer group. As we discussed earlier, there is a general trend among Chinese consumers toward embracing a more muted and understated aesthetic. This inclination has only been heightened during the economic downturn, where individuals seek a sense of calm and peace amidst uncertainty.
The "Chillax" trend fits perfectly with the desire for peace and represents a move towards a more relaxed and laid-back lifestyle. This trend can apply not only to fashion but also to household items, interior design, and other aspects of daily life.
For instance, in 2022, camping became increasingly popular in China, with more middle-class consumers opting for "glamping" or luxury camping experiences. The trend of "glamping" involves stylish setups, beautiful aesthetics, and picturesque locations for social media-worthy photos. The appeal of this form of camping lies in the escape from busy city life while still enjoying modern comforts and technology.
According to BigOne Lab's online sales data, camping and picnic-related products, such as tents, barbecue equipment, and inflatable beds, experienced strong year-on-year growth in the first quarter of 2023. Although they cooled down going into the second quarter, we are seeing other "Chillax" activities, such as mountain climbing and fishing, maintain a high year-on-year rebound.
A trending report by People's Daily Online tells the story of how fishing activities are becoming increasingly popular among young people in China. Although traditionally associated with middle-aged and senior individuals, many young consumers are now finding fishing to be a "chillax" leisure activity:
“It doesn’t matter whether I can catch a fish or not, they key is I just want some peace and quiet time”
“No money for big spending, a fishing rod can keep me entertained for two days…”
As people recognize the economic challenges of the current condition, there is a growing recognition of the importance of targeting consumers' psychology. The "Chillax" trend could be the winning strategy in 2023 to connect with Chinese consumers on a deeper emotional level!
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